Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Here's a writerly thought for this Friday: What is so terrifying about starting a new WIP?

Perhaps "terrifying" is a bit strong. But there's certainly an element of paralysis that kicks in. Like standing on the edge of a pool when you know the water is frigid.

It might be because I've recently finished a WIP and have set it aside (it's a "book 2"; there's no reason to spend any more time on it if I can't make anyone fall in love with "book 1"). I push myself hard when I'm writing a first draft; 1000 words a day, 6 days a week. No excuses. And it gets me a completed draft in about 3 months.

So having just come out of that sort of intensity, I'm blanching a bit. You all know by now that I prefer revising and editing. I'm sure that has something to do with it.

But there's also an element of, "Why bother?" As in, I haven't succeeded up 'til now. Why pour my soulblood into something new and go through the angst and disappointment yet again?

It's all rhetorical. I know the answers. But I hate the struggle.

What about you? As you move forward on your journey, do you find that starting something new is scintillating? Or scary? Or enough to make you throw your hands up and scream "Forget it!" (knowing full well that you don't mean it)?

And if you're one of those "I adore writing first drafts" types, do share your enthusiasm. I would love to be able to relate to that mindset! Maybe I can glean a few things and give myself the little kick I need.

Right. Onward. Happy weekend!


  1. Good luck.

    Started a first draft myself this month. It can be hellish.

  2. Oh, I DO LOFF LOFF LOFF starting a new book. It's so exciting to pick the characters: their names, their photos, their issues. I find it's like making new friends (or enemies...even better!) I could spend ages on this stage alone.

    And then there's the plot twists. And the smoochie scenes. LOFF LOFF LOFF!

  3. I agree with Holly, writing first drafts is the best thing. Revising is painful.

    In first drafts everything is new, everything is a surprise. You and the characters are still trying to figure out where the story is going. I love it!

  4. I agree with everyone!

    Starting a first draft is scary, like clutching the high diving board and peering over the edge. (There might be sharks down there this time! You don't know! *flails*)

    But it's also FUN. It's always partially unexpected and new. If you're a plotter rather than a pantser, you may know most of the plot twists and details ahead of time.

    But it's like reading about a trip to disneyland before you go.

    It's DIFFERENT when you're there and it's REAL and it's hot and the ice cream is so fantastically delicious and you feel like you're five years old again, begging Goofy for a picture with him or having breakfast with Cinderella.

    Later on is the sifting through photos and choosing the best, making a scrapbook, sharing it with others ...

    ... but the first draft is like embarking on a journey with good friends. Doesn't matter if you're the sort to map things out ahead of time or if you're delighted kicking up your heels and popping your thumb at every passing trucker, just to see where adventure takes you.

    First drafts are AWESOME.

    There were at least three too many analogies in there, but I don't care. *grins*

  5. I struggled with the same thing recently (well, still struggling). Had to set aside my first "baby" (no interest, no love beyond my know). I stood at the precipice looking at that new idea for a long, long time before I finally took the dive. And writing it is like swimming in molasses (sweet, kinda fun molasses but still molasses).

    But I have faith it'll get better. Lilith Saintcrow calls her first draft a "zero draft" because it's just about getting the words out. Then you can form it into something resembling a solid draft.

    Keep dog-paddling and soon you'll be swimming along!

  6. I love writing first drafts. It's the revising that kills me. It's probably because I'm a pantser. I get an idea, and even though I try to restrain myself and do the plotting and planning, it's not long before I'm diving in, with only a sketchy idea of where I'm headed. I make it up as I go. This means, of course, that revising is even more beastly, because I have to untangle all the plot strands that I've been pulling about wily-nily.

    I think my biggest strength is in painting individual scenes, so I'm always impatient to get started on it. It's the keeping track of the overall picture that makes me stumble.

  7. Starting a new draft is like a first date--it might be amazing, it might be painful, but there is always the chance of true love and a wild good time! Besides, revising is so much work.

  8. I love the whole process, except when I get blocked, or when I don't have time to write.

    Or when my $%^&*#*()&#$% computer gets three viruses in a week, and keeps having to be sent to the shop, leaving me with no access to my work and only a 1-hour computer at the library to work on!....

    But I digress.

    I have been flirting with restarting an old project, which is in such horrible shape that it basically becomes a new project. This morning, robbed of all other possible productive work, I sat down with notebook paper and started asking myself questions--what was important, what are the subplots, how do they fit together? And I must say, it was fun! My biggest problem is jumping in, b/c fractured time is not good for writing a long work--good for revising, for articles, for personal essays, etc., but not for something with a long dramatic arc. And fractured time is all I have.

    But sooner or later I've got to get over that and plunge in. Like now. Time to get off the borrowed computer and do some writing!

  9. Well, I agree with everyone, at different times of the process.

    I'm currently in rewrite mode for a completed novel that was rejected a bazillion times two years ago. I finally picked it up again and I'm struggling with the questions you do. Is this even worth it? And yet, I feel like I have to make it work. I love the characters and their journey, and can't stand the idea that I might end up shoving it in a drawer. Why then would I write another one?

    Yet I have six other books in the queue to write, three as part of a series that I've already plotted out and which I'm already to chapter 3. I love writing on those when I allow myself -- which I usually don't because I'm trying to MAKE myself finish the rewrite.

    Balance, discipline, focus, and perseverance are the challenges we writers face daily. And the hold-out for the dream we want to make come true.

  10. "Why bother?" I have been here for about a year--I'm still smarting from the loss of my last novel that I was certain was going to sell. (Not my first novel--in fact there's about 7 in all. But this one had a plot!) It's been a hard year, struggling to get past that. It sings when I hear good news from others. (I hate that!) and see and hear others passing me by. (My last critique group all got agents and published!) But lately I've begun to find the strength to climb back on the horse. I've dabbled all year with other projects, stories and idea's. Couldn't really focus. Taking a calss right now and it has helped push me forward. A revision class, with lots of hands on advice and idea's. It's almost like saying, "move that foot, now move that one." Slow and steady wins the race. Hang in there. Take care of you, read a lot, and turn off the inner critic. I read your first sentence over at the first line contest and was so compelled to read further. Hope that's the one you're revising. So I can read it when it's published!

  11. Oh, I love writing. Love editing, but only if it's someone else's work. The first draft always has so much promise and hope to it. You can watch it go wherever it's going to go, and it's a new adventure every day you're writing.

    Editing your own stuff, though, to me, is torture. Trying to fix things and make them work is like drowning the hope you had with the draft. And I feel like I'm never going to get it right.

    Draft vs. editing is potential vs. life preserver.

  12. If I had it my way, I would write the first draft, someone else would edit, then we would discuss the changes. I LOVE FIRST DRAFT WRITING!! It's where all the ideas break through.

  13. For me, it's both terrifying and exciting. Exploring the new world, getting to know new characters, that part is fun. But it's also painful because I want it to be better than my last WIP. I want to apply the things I've learned to the new book, and I want to believe I'm a better writer now, but of course it doesn't look that way when you're comparing a first draft to a polished one.

    Until recently I was writing a YA urban fantasy. The manuscript was about 90% ready, and I was deciding who I wanted to query, but in the end I couldn't go through with it because it wasn't what I really wanted to write. I was just trying to follow trends.

    So now I'm starting a book in the genre I love most: high fantasy. And it's exhilarating because I'm writing what I love, but also scary because I know I'll definitely go all the way with this one.

    Good luck with yours. Can't wait to hear more. :)

  14. I think the hardest thing about first drafts for me is the fear that I'm going to get stuck. I've done more and more pre-writing for every novel I write, and I recently had to set a novel aside because it's in such awful shape and the right fix isn't coming to me. It just needs time, I guess. It would be a waste to do it over the wrong way again!

    So with the new project I'm starting, I'm terrified that the end result is going to be another one of those! I push myself to finish novels for the discipline of it (kind of like Fragrant Liar does), but when the end product is horrific, you can't help but get dismal zombie-eyes saying, "what HAVE I done? Months and months, gone! Wasted!"

    That said, I also agree with Holly Bodger--the part where you let your characters talk to you (and try to hide that from your psychiatrist) to build the story is one of my favorite parts. You just get that shiver down your spine--the "this is going to be REALLY cool" one.

  15. Ah . . . works in progress. I have five of them "started." By which, I mean I have titles, characters and a couple of intro lines. I so sympathize with you on the 'book one' and 'book two' issue. I have a complete MG I've been submitting for 4 years now. It's gone thru so many revisions and rewrites, I hardly recognize it, and I have half of 'book two' done, but agree that why should I agonize over it when book one hasn't found a lover yet. Good news is that book one just got a full ms request, so now I wait 3 months, on edge . . . hurry up and wait! That being said, my new projects keep me going because they're nothing like my MG adventure series, so its a big break and an escape. I find that writing/creating new projects in a different genre keeps my spirits up and my enthusiasm in tact -until I get another rejection, but until then...write, revise, and then write some more. Bless us all for insanely loving our hopeless, but self-satisfying craft.

  16. I too prefer the editing phase, but first drafts have a joy all their own (like the first date, referred to above). I think the key is pacing yourself. Yes, it's good to have words per day goals and stick to them, but it's also a creative (and therefore not linear) process.

    I have no doubt that you will create another awesome first draft, in time. But don't forget to give yourself time to savor the accomplishment of finishing the last one!

  17. I hate writing the first draft. Fortunately I outline first, so that helps. I prefer editing and rewrites. Then I'm in my happy domain.

    Having said that, come September (fingers crossed), I'll be ready to start my new wip. :D

  18. I am about half way through a first draft. I'm at that stage where I'm being bombard by new shiny ideas that seem so more appealing than what I'm writing. First drafts are hard in a different way than the other parts of writing. I just hate that white space.

    Good luck with leaping into the pool who knows the water may be wonderfully warm :)

  19. I love starting. I never think of it as 'Is this story going to be good enough to publish?' or 'Why bother if the last one didn't sell?'. I start thinking about a story, it excites me, and I have to start writing it down before I forget.

    It's the middle that's hard for me. I try to get past that by reminding myself how exciting it is to be getting to the special parts that I was looking forward to writing, but sometimes, you just can't see the bridge from point A to B and you get bogged down.

    Endings are a relief, but I think I revise them as much as the beginning. If a book doesn't have a great ending, it's failed for me. I want my endings to always resonate. I want the reader to look back at the start and think 'Damn! how did I end up here? What a ride!' The excitement of getting to that point is what makes me jump in at the beginning without even holding my nose ::Grin::

  20. Third agent, seventh manuscript, no sales yet. (The agents all repped different YAs). I see terrible Twilight clones like the Hollow get ridiculously great deals and great publicity, etc. and I have to wonder exactly wtf the publishing world wants.

  21. I love starting something new. It's submitting or querying it that scares me.

  22. I'm more scared of writing the middle and thinking about quiting on current WIP and starting another make me sick. I'm one of the writer who still learning to finish the first draft. I have finished a first draft, I'm now trying to write a second one but the story changed so much its a first draft again. blah. Yeah I think I need to set a daily goal and make a no excuse rule until I finish it like you.

  23. You’re singing to the choir. I’m currently revising my first MS that’s been rejected more times than I care to remember. I also have started a new project, and have wondered more than once why I put myself through this. I’ve gone so far as to attempt to turn my back on writing all together, but then I wake up with one of my characters voices in my head giving me their next line, or I’ll think of a new scene while driving home from school. No matter what I say, or how vehemently I promise myself I’m just going to quit really quit, I end up right back at my computer sooner or later. I’ve almost come to terms with the fact that I’m irrevocably hooked, but there is that frustration that builds from time to time. We might ask ourselves why we continue, banging our heads against the wall and wishing we could just be done with it. But, we can’t walk away, because there’s the other side of the coin. The part where we get to explore, create, imagine, and I don’t think anyone who knows the joy of watching your characters grow, and love, and learn could ever really just walk away.

  24. Starting a new book is exciting for me. I am very good at procrastination and starting a new WIP gets you out of having to face querying.
    New characters, new story, it is fun. I'm a pantser so I jut go for it.
    What I do do is get one of those ruled hardback minute books. Remember when you were a kid in school and you started a new exercise book? That was wonderful. You'd write your name on the front cover and relish that crispness on the inside.
    Get one of those minute books and start writing your ideas down. Call it and dedicate it to your new WIP and just start. Get your cork board and tear little pieces of paper and make some sort of pretence that you know where your book will charter but put your ideas down in the book and when you aren't writing on the computer go dream in the local cafe, or out in the garden in the sun.
    I am an eternal optimist. Lately I've stalled a bit but I do it knowing that there is something lurking - beckoning me. Chasing me is guilt over the fact that I should be editing but I'm letting my current down-mood clutch me in its vice grip.
    Soooooooooooooo what I'm doing is just moving over a bit. I have a m/s for picture book which my editor loved and which I really didn't feel like illustrating (yawn) and just juicing me up again. But I'm a word-person and writing just moves my juices so I'll just waffle between all three activities and keep myself at it.
    I also don't have a problem pushing my writing rate at over a 1,000 a day. It's the editing that really is the hard part j- and querying(!)
    and not getting out of bed one day hating your work and getting out of bed the next and realising that you'd been pretty hard on yourself yesterday.
    But you have to be in it to win it. The more you write the better you get. The rewards can be so wonderful. The smell of your first book. That first proof when the publisher rings you up and says it's in her office, come see it, - the network meetings you have with fellow authors and calling yourself that when you fill out a form asking you what your occupation is.


    and when somebody says:

    I've heard of you.

    It happened to me yesterday :-)


  25. I'm with you, first drafts are scary (I have the same problem with drawing, it turns out). What gets me through it is finishing a chapter or two and getting some encouraging comments from my first reader.

  26. I never have any of these issues because I treat my writing seriously, like a career. If I stopped writing things I can't sell, well that would be just like the baker that closed last week. He loved to bake but he quit because nobody bought his bread. If he were a true professional he would have kept baking bread until he found a recipe that was so great it made people willing to pay more than the grocery store and also go out of their way to buy it.

    As I see it that's all an author has to do. Except the baker makes about .50 per loaf of bread which take a few hours to make whereas us authors makes about .06 per book that took 1 year to write, three years or more years to sell and pays her agent 15% of that .06.

    Anyone who has cold feet about this is just being silly.

  27. I am in it for the editing. A new idea is a wonderful, exciting thing, but a blank page is ominous and terrifying.
    I had to stop being a pantser after I realized that editing was like writing it all over again. It was like trying to put together a puzzle without looking at the box; I really had no idea where anything was supposed to go.
    I love the edit. I wield a red pen with vigor and slash through entire chapters sometimes (because my first drafts tend to be wordy). I love it. And I love that "just brushed feeling" I get when I'm looking at a freshly pared-down manuscript.
    The best way I have found to start a new work is NaNo style: promise myself at least 50,000 words in 30 days, no excuses. Last year I did 66,000. I'm just now getting to the edit and, since I had it all plotted before I began, I'm actually loving what I already wrote. Editing this one will be fun!

  28. I'm one of those people who love writing the first draft more than the subsequent editing. Still, I also love the feeling of being able to write THE END and knowing those words mean I really am ready to send the book out into the world. :shrug: Maybe it's that when I write brand new words, they're perfect in my head, but when I go back to edit, I see how much better it all should be. Then when I get to the last draft, those words are almost perfect again.

    If that makes any sense.

  29. Oh GOD, I hate starting a first draft. Once I get going it's not so bad, but that first tentative toe dip into the icy coldness of my frozen brain is excruciating. I actually prefer revision.

    I like to do something special to celebrate when I reach the end of a first draft. I drink a glass of wine, call a few friends or buy myself a little treat. The horrible part is over!

  30. I relate to this. First drafts take over my life. Eating, sleeping, waking hours are consumed with thinking about the draft. I liken it to never being able to forget about what was due next in graduate school.

    And sometimes I wonder, why bother? What if I never get published? In fact, my Thursday post was about this exact subject, since I'm embarking on the next querying adventure.

  31. I enjoy new stories about as much as I enjoy revising stories. Both have their plusses and minuses, IMO.

    The best way I've found for tackling a new idea is to treat each chapter like a mini book - give it a start, middle, and end. When I focus on that, building the tale usually goes at breathtaking speed. Before I know it, I've got two hundred pages and I'm nearing the big finish.

    I do the same thing with editing. One chapter at a time, treating it like its own entity. Read forward then read backward, and then move on to the next one.

    Anyone that says writing is 'easy' probably hasn't done it. I'm usually wiped after eight hours creating. What about everyone else?

    Emma Ray Garrett

  32. I love all parts of the process, the first draft, the revision, the next revision . . . but I'm not so in love with the querying process. I've queried several manuscripts and have had good luck, but not good enough. I've been at the almost there stage for what feels like forever.

    Why bother? It helps me a lot when I hear other people confess they ask themselves the same thing. And what it means to me is that it's time to take a breather from my manuscript, send out a few more queries, and then go back to work.

  33. I'm with the camp that loves first drafts and detests revising. I love how much better my MS is after revising, but the process is painful for me.

    I like first drafts because I feel that I have free liberty. I'm not so tied to it yet and hesitant of chopping my "darlings." I don't have to analyze verb usuage and pay attention to repetitive words. Etc, etc, etc. You can just write and let it come out as it does. The only requirement of mine is that I have to roughly know where to begin and roughly know where the book will end.

  34. Me and PatEsden. Sooooo close. And yet. Not. The almost there stage is really hard.

    I think it's hard to start a new book because you really do have to start from the beginning all over again, and it's hard to go from total fluency/nitpicky polishing back to baby steps, as if you're learning a whole new language all over again. I do find, though, that once I'm far enough in, it takes over, and gives me a high I can't get anywhere else. So I just have to keep the faith that once again, a story will take over my mind and heart and I'll love it just as much as the one that almost made it last time.